AFDEC welcomes the man from Thief River Falls

Executives from UK’s distribution community gathered near Windsor last month to welcome Mark Larson, president of Digi-Key and to mark the catalogue distributor’s membership of the industry trade body, AFDEC.

He immediately struck the right tone: “For a catalogue guy to come to the UK and talk about catalogue distribution is humbling. You guys wrote the book.”

He went on to describe the history of the Thief River Falls-based distribution company which he joined in 1976.

“Back then annual sales were $800,000,” said Larson.

In 2008, Digi-Key did £62m worth of business in Europe and over £600m globally.

But Larson’s big message was the strength and growth potential of the online distribution business.

“Even in the downturn at the start of the year when sales were sucking air we were getting online growth,” said Larson.  

Digi-Key does not far short of 70% of its business on the web and in September, after the downturn in the first half of the year, its European sales returned to 10% growth.

UK companies like RS and Farnell may have helped to define the catalogue distribution business in the last 40 years, but Larson believes the internet is changing the game.

“One thing we have learned is that a virtual presence can compete with a physical presence in the market,” said Larson.

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